As many of us would have thought, 2020 was going to be our year! The year of success, travelling and achieving more goals we've set for ourselves. The year that we thought we were going to do everything we said we would do, many years ago. But just as we thought we were going to have a good year, a worldwide pandemic hit us with no warning. As we have been in different levels of Lockdown, through the grace of God, our country has managed to get us back to Level 1 with absolutely no cases for 17 straight days. But in the midsts of this happening, we sit at the comfort of our homes and watch the harsh reality of Racial Injustice, Police Brutality and the plain life BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) have to live based off of the complexion of their skin, unfolding worldwide.
As a young Pasifika woman, my passion for fighting along side my Black brothers and sisters in America started when certain things happening to them, happened to me and to Polynesian communities here in New Zealand. Many would look at New Zealand and, based off of how diverse our country is, claim that this is not a racist place. But in fact, it is. As much as I aspire to be a voice of change for our people, I am also a firm believer in Jesus Christ and the teachings He taught. How then do I balance my faith with something that is heavily influenced and stemmed from Systematic Oppression?
We have to understand that the pinnacle of the issue stems from people with the mindset that;
"Superiority gives people the thought that, because they think they hold some sort of power, they're convinced that their mindset of illegitimate thinking, having the inner-ability to judge and to discriminate based off of false conclusions, is right. No type of judgement is right."
As New Zealand is starting to become more vocal and aware of the BLM Movement, it has not only brought a group of people together but has, at the same time, caused a division within the people of the nation - in cases of: not understanding each others reason for being for/against the Movement, and blatant ignorance towards the fact that racial discrimination, police brutality and systematic racism and oppression still linger within our political justice system, and as well as within ourselves. It's important that we educate and make ourselves aware of these issues because if not, we are making ourselves oblivious to the fact that it truly does happen here in New Zealand.
Growing up, I was raised majority of my life in Sydenham/Addington areas. It wasn't considered a well-off area growing up, and I experienced different churches and the audiences they catered to. I lived a very Tongan life at home but then at school I had to adapt to the westernized way of life - there were no in-betweens. I attended a very diverse primary school, where not once do I remember encountering any form of racism, until I hit high school. I had attended Christchurch Girls' High School, and the majority of it's students were Pākehā. I remember in Year 11, Pasifika and Māori students of my school made up only 1% of the school population. There are many reasons behind why there weren't so much of our own people attending the school but more so girls who were mixed were identifying themselves as Palangi (white), because they felt they would have a better opportunity of not only getting into the school but also being socially accepted as well.
Throughout my whole 5 years of schooling at CGHS, I always had to go the extra mile and felt that I had to be someone I wasn't because to "fit in" I had to act, walk, talk and look a certain way to be socially accepted. I almost felt like the darker the skin of one meant there was a more challenging a social environment for us because we don't physically fit in. I remember in Year 10, I yearned for the comfort of a Pasifika community in my school because it was crucial for myself and my well-being to have some sense of support from people who I felt would understand at least a small fraction of who I am and my story. I fought to create a Pasifika group and with the help of a handful of people and teachers we were able to do so. We fought for a Pasifika Leadership role to be put in place so that there is a role model assigned to help future Pasifika students who attend CGHS and don't have to feel left out, and it was awarded. As Year 13 was approaching, despite all the hard work and determination I had put into fighting for a voice and a place of acceptance for students and young women like myself - in a school that thrived off of sporty and straight A students - I lost the Pasifika Prefect role to someone who played only a small portion in fighting and being the voice for future Pasifika Students, and who was also not of Pasifika descent.
I wanted to bring this up because in most cases, regardless of the hard work and effort you put into building something, whether it be a youth group, business or anything else, something and someone will always be in the way of your success. Sometimes it is because of the colour of your skin. Sometimes because you are not the face that they want to portray as a leader. Sometimes because you stood up for what you believe in and it didn't align with what they wanted to be the image for their organisation. And this is only one example.
We live in a time where something called "Casual Racism" has been normalised to a point where it is part of our everyday lives we don't bother to call out the ignorance in the behaviour we accept. As much as we may believe we are not racist and have never been racist, there will always be a time in our lifetime that we have judged and discriminated a person based off of their appearance. The first step to making and being the change is owning our part and contribution to the issue. Once we have accepted the flaws that we have, we will then be able to contribute more positively and continue to spread awareness and educate ourselves on the brutal but very relevant history of not only New Zealand, but the history of injustice worldwide.
Racism is such a bigger problem than the little knowledge that we have on it. So much of it stems from corporations, broken systems, politics, lack of knowledge/acknowledgement, ignorance and much more. But the base of Racism stems from us, our homes and the future generations that we are responsible for educating on the history of. Everything starts from home and it's true what they say,
"you are not born with a hateful heart, you are taught to hate."
I strongly recommend and encourage you all to take time out of your day to educate yourself on the ongoing issues that Racism causes around the world, and the continuous Oppression that is, to this day, still happening right before our eyes. Take the time to sympathise and pray for the people of America, and understand their cries of frustration and pain due to the loss of many black lives due to Racial Profiling and Police Brutality. Take time time to educate yourself on the continuous injustice happening to our West Papua cousins going on today. Take the time to thank our loving God, for how fortunate we are here in New Zealand where racism isn't to the level of violence compared to in America, but to also study the history of New Zealand itself.
As we continue to raise awareness on this hateful issue, as the scripture says in Galations 6:7 "... A man reaps what he sows", Mark 12:31 "Love your neighbour as yourself". We live in a world where we have to constantly pull ourselves aside and remind ourselves that this world is filled with and thrives off of hate and anger, and so we need to be the ones to project that energy into positive energy. As you educate yourselves your aggression and frustration will increase but take that energy and turn it into love and passion. Show our people that you stand with them as one in humanity and oneness in God. It's time that we come together and stand for what is right and show support and take ownership, rather than continue living in ignorance and being blind to the issue at hand.
As I come to and end of my passage I wanted to leave you with an interesting but well put view of the Black Lives Matter awareness happening today. It goes a little something like this,
"If you are a Christian, and can't hear #BlackLivesMatter without feeling the need to respond with a criticism that "All Lives Matter," then crack open your Bible and hit up Luke 15. Don't have it handy? Let me summarize.
There are 100 sheep, but one goes missing.
Jesus leaves the 99 and goes after the one.
The 99: "But... what about us? Don't we matter?"
Of course the 99 still matter, but they're not the ones in danger.
The one is.
I'll say it again, #BlackLivesMatter."
If you've made it this far then thank you for reading and also for giving me the opportunity to take this time to share my opinion and shed light on something we have become oblivious to. Spread love and not hate. Knowledge is powerful, using your voice is powerful but most of all our loving and gracious God is powerful.
Tu'a Ofa Atu